G70 Brick Stove First Fire

I don’t have photos yet, but will add them. (I have a scheduled event tonight, so photos must wait for tomorrow). Still, I can put up a general “layout” of the bricks and comments about the result of the “First Fire” event.

Brick Layout G70 Stove

Brick Layout G70 Stove

I’ve taken to calling this the G7O stove due to the general shape of the layers (though the 7 is more like the older kind that has a dangle hanging down from the top). I used a 16 x 16 inch cement ‘paver’ as a base just to make things insulated and flat. Then I built the stove base on that. Most likely, you don’t need both. The brick ‘base’ is that set of 6 bricks in the lower right of the image. That gives a heat retentive and fire resistant base and helps to prevent burning the dirt / grass under the stove while also giving a raised air intake to the firebox. Ashes or coals ‘sneaking out’ tend to land on the 16 inch ’tile’ rather than, say, dry grass.

The rest of the layers run from upper left to lower left in order. The first one is the ‘ash and coals pit’. It has the general shape of a G with the air intake to the right. That single brick set off by itself can be used as a ‘damper’ on the air feed (useful when running just charcoal for long slow burns). It can be laid flat on the short axis for no effect, turned ‘on edge’ for partial blocking, or stood ‘on end’ to fully block the air intake. (Well, not fully as the non-mortared joints leak, but enough to make it a slow coal burn with metered air).

The ‘hanging down” part of the G isn’t all the way down. The air channel is a bit less than one brick width. (This makes the outside edges non-aligned, but the structure better. So suppress that desire for smooth aligned external edges…) Slide it up just a bit to narrow the air channel about 1 cm. (An amount so small it doesn’t show up in this drawing). That lets the brick from the next layer up that cantilevers over that gap to instead ‘span’ it with a 1 or 2 cm ledge to sit on for that (otherwise) cantilevered end.

The next layer up is the 7 or hook shape (with dangling lead in part…) It makes the wood feed channel. The upper right brick spans the air feed hole below and rests mostly on the upper right brick of the G, but a little on that lower right brick once you slide it up a bit.

On top of the 7 layer, you can add one or two chimney squares. Just 4 bricks in a square (change the order of rotation for each layer so they are overlapping bricks in a ‘bond’). The lower left brick will cantilever over the wood feed hole, so slightly slide inward the bottom right brick of the 7 so that the (otherwise) cantilever brick rests on a cm or 2 of it. That way everything is very stable and strong (even if the outside looks a tiny bit ‘ragged’ or out of alignment).

I did two chimney squares.

I can also use a brick (or 1/2 brick) to close off the wood feed hole once you have a bed of charcoal in the fire pit. At that point you have a charcoal burner with draft controlled by the lower right hand draft brick.

Note that some of the bricks “poke out” from the usual all square shape. In particular the ‘dangly bits’ to the lower right of the G and the 7 shapes. By doing that, you don’t need to cut any bricks to make 1/2 bricks. If desired, you could just cut those bricks to length (and make that edge more smooth). In a locally produced version, you could even fire bricks of custom sizes so that the ‘cantilever’ was avoided while keeping a smooth outside wall. I was more interested in ‘fast strong and easy’ than in ‘polished and esthetic’ so willing to accept a slightly unaligned exterior. Laying the wood feed draft brick on the base can also act as a support shelf for longer sticks when not using it for draft control. That is, the ‘isolated brick’ (not shown) used to cover the wood feed hole for draft control in charcoal mode can be used to extend that support base under longer sticks when not used for draft control.

In comments on the USB charging wood stove article I described my ‘First Fire”. I’m just going to copy those comments here as they are appropriate. I’ll edit them a little bit for this posting:

Well, none of the local stores had the Coleman Oven, so I ordered it online. Delivery in a week or so. $38 tax and shipping included. It looks like they work OK as long as you add a bit of insulation via foil wrapping, even on a small wood camping stove. On a pile of hot bricks, likely even better. I’ll need to work out the stand for it and see how it goes. For baking, feeding a lot of sticks takes tending, so I’m likely to try ‘charcoal mode’ for a longer slower baking heat.

Also got the bricks. I’ve made the stove now and….. tum Ta DAH TUM!

We’ve had “First Fire”!

I’m tentatively calling it the “G70 Stove” based on the shapes of the key layers. many of the ‘pile of brick’ stoves that are called “Rocket Stoves” don’t have good adherence to the actual design features of the real Rocket Stove. In particular, they often do not have the wood feed shelf raised above the air feed channel. Instead, they often just feed air and wood into the same hole on or near the bottom. Just an L shaped tube, really. Mine has a lower air feed channel and a wood feed channel one layer higher, then the chimney. I also have controls for draft on both of those feed holes, so you can set it for ‘charcoal’ burn by blocking of the top wood feed hole and damping down the lower air feed. Rather like the StoveTec with two doors and dampers.


Main site here discusses their ‘two door’ stove:


If you read their description you can see why my ‘design goal’ included two feed holes and dampers.

StoveTec stoves are based on Dr. Larry Wininarski’s original rocket stove design and developed in collaboration with Aprovecho Research Center. The insulated combustion chamber utilizes low-density clay and is unique to StoveTec stoves.The result is a highly efficient stove that is preheating the gases, and burning a large percentage of the smoke and gases as fuel, reducing emissions and reducing fuel use.The insulated combustion chamber also protects the user, since the stove body will not burn the user if contacted while cooking

The 2 door store is designed to burn wood, flammable biomass, and/or charcoal.
Please note that Charcoal manufacturing robs 70% to 80% of the energy of wood during the production process, and releases large amounts of Methane, CO, CO2, and other toxic gases into the environment.These toxic gases are introduced again while cooking.The intention is to provide you with information regarding the consequences of stove choice and the fuels you select for cooking.

The 2 door stove does have an advantage simmering or during low firepower grilling, in regard to ease of low temperature control with the lower ventilation door.Wood or biomass embers do not require constant monitoring with the 2 door stove after the combustion chamber door with the attached fire brick is closed.

The attached firebrick on the top combustion chamber door is only protecting the paint on the combustion chamber door and may vary from stove to stove in shape and appearance.This door is closed using charcoal fuel, or during simmering operations with wood or flammable biomass fuel.

So I use a brick as the ‘door’ for my wood feed port. Coupled with the ‘damper’ on the lower air port, I ought to be able to have full control for simmer, grilling, charcoal baking, etc. Much like in these stoves.

But not at a cost of $125 from Amazon… While I’d love to have one of these for ‘at the beach’ or ‘car camping’ where it is much more portable, in reality I’d likely use something even more portable then. For stationary use in the Third World (their design point) it’s great as it is self contained and can be moved outdoors for cooking, then brought inside when done. But I wanted to know “was there a cheaper way?” Preferably one that could be done after a Great Quake knocks out everything in the area and takes no, or nearly no, tools. (I.e. not a lot of brick cutting and dressing or mortaring and I don’t need to go digging for my brick cutting chisel in the possibly flaming rubble of my garage in the dark…).

Mine is a bit overbuilt on materials. I could make one almost as workable for about 2/3 the bricks. Still, I like the deluxe features. And I can always use the bricks for something else later if I get bored with it. ;-)

So how much cost? I bought 24 bricks, but 25 is better ( I’m using an existing brick for one of the dampers and as the fuel shelf). You can get these for about 24 cents as ‘cement’ bricks, but fired clay is likely to be more durable. They run at 52 cents here. So $12.48 was spent, but $13 if you get the added one. I also bought a 16 inch square ‘base’ paver of cement for $3.50 or so that wasn’t really needed. As I’m using a layer of brick for the ‘floor’ of the fire area. You could likely leave out either the ‘base’ paver slab or the 6 bricks used as a base that is mostly just a fire proof layer between the cement ‘base’ and the rest of the stove. So do I really need two ‘base’ layers?… At any rate, all up, I’m into it about $16 for my stove. With completely reusable materials.

“First Fire” was on ‘found materials’ that consisted of standing dried stems from Jerusalem Artichokes that had died back for the winter and some hulls from lima beans ( I’d harvested the seeds and left the husks where the stove got built…) Lit on the first try, burned cleanly and nicely, and consumed things pretty much to ash. No smoke in operation and very little at start up. (At the very end; the nubs of the last stems didn’t burn fully, but I didn’t have much coals by then and those were the damp ends from near the ground…) All in all, quite pleased. It would likely smell better with hardwood or fruit wood, and I’m going to try it as a Hibachi / BBQ of sorts “sometime” toward Spring.

As an ‘ersatz stove’ it is fast and easy to make and very cheap to buy the materials. It works on any dried plant materials (as evidenced in the ‘First Fire’…) and does well. You have great heat control with either fuel feed rate or dampers (or both). It was modestly windy today and the wind was right into the fuel feed. No problem other than a bit of ash out the top on gusts. (A rebuild will likely point the fuel feed away from the primary wind direction and / or I’ll add a wind screen AKA cinder block ;-) up wind. ) “Start time” was about a minute (less if you don’t mind cooking as the fire gets rolling) and “turn off” is about the same, at least with the ‘trash sticks’. Using larger lumber like wood likely to take longer. I can see having some of each and choosing size based on expected burn time. One could always ‘turn off the stove’ very rapidly by dunking the stick ends into a water bowl then spraying the coals with a water bottle. Biggest risk would be heat shock breaking a brick. 50 cents… Personally, I’d just set the tea kettle on top of the stack to start warming some water as the fire runs down, or put some muffins in the oven to warm…

I didn’t put a grate on the top yet, but one from the portable BBQ ought to be fine. I’m also pondering 3 or 4 small bricks / stones as a pot support. We’ll see what I end up with. Three or four ‘1/2 bricks’ spaced around the top of the ‘chimney’ would be fine. Any of the examples used on existing “16 or 24 brick rocket stoves” will work here too. Stability is quite high (as you might expect from a pile of 2 dozen bricks…) and mortar is not needed.

So I’m a very happy camper, even if “camping” in the backyard.


For anyone not familiar with them, a picture and a couple of pointers to the basic Rocket Stove tech:

Basic can based Rockek Stove

Basic can based Rockek Stove

Here you can see that my ‘contribution’ is mostly just turning the air intake 90 degrees from the wood shelf so that there is no need for a metal support (that can be made from an old tin can, but few people do and it make the fuel port a bit cramped anyway). That 90 degree change lets the structure be easily made with a brick stack. Then adding two “loose” bricks to use for dampers on those two ports let you choose high power wood feed with added air, lower power – even ‘simmer’, or “charcoal slow mode” with the wood fuel port closed and the bottom air damper partly closed for longer, slower, simmers and roasts with less wood tending time.

Of course, there is a wiki:


The Rocketstove.org folks:


These folks have several videos and pictures of other kinds of Rocket Stove:


Frankly, while the ‘stove in a bucket’ designs are likely a bit nicer for day to day use, the ability to build one in less than a couple of minutes from a pile of bricks “post quake” is more interesting to me. That it seems to work about as well (judging from flame size / heat out the top) is just icing on top ;-)

Or maybe it’s just all those ‘muscle memories’ of cuts from working sheet metal and thinking that ‘in an emergency’ working with tin snips and rough edges is not high on my ‘want’ list…

These folks have one of each. This link is to there mortared in place brick one:


but has a link to their 5 gallon can one as well.

This video goes through the details and technicals of making a Rocket Stove, including how to make lightweight more insulative bricks from scratch (though you would need to have or make a 1000 C kiln). Still, it is good to know what the specific technical targets are for an ideal stove when working out how to make one for emergencies and minimal cost / materials circumstances. Clearly, though, this is not something you will be doing at 11 pm in the dark after the quake…

That ought to be enough to provide some ‘context’ on Rocket Stove state of the art.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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18 Responses to G70 Brick Stove First Fire

  1. PaulID says:

    Looking forward to some pic of this.

  2. E.M.Smith says:


    Pictures when I cook lunch on it tomorrow noonish. Today was ‘assemble’ and it got done just in time to go to a planned event. So with light fading and shower calling, I figured pictures could wait. I hope to eventually make a Youtube video of “how to make and operate one”, but that’s for even later. (As I’ve never done a movie with my Nikon, though it says it can do it; nor have I posted to youtube…) So I’ll be doing some basic still pictures of “how it looks done” and “layers”. Base. Base+G. Then +7 and then adding chimneys. I may even take one of it in ‘charcoal mode’ (once I test it ;-)

    Though don’t know how exciting it will be… all being just ‘pile of bricks’…

    But it will be easier than visualizing the stack from the blue rectangles image up top ;-)

  3. tckev says:

    As above, I will be waiting for the pictures of the outcome, or even a video. Looks like a good design so far though.

  4. EM – around a couple of decades ago I experimented with a mix of sand, cement and Vermiculite (1:1:7 by volume) to fill in around a flexible stainless-steel chimney liner in an old house. Makes the chimney easier to brush since the tube doesn’t flop around in the chimney. The mix worked well and I also cast some fire-cheeks in it which under a blowlamp got nicely red-hot without disintegrating. Using this mix, it seems you could cast a much nicer stove that, because the Vermiculite is a good insulator, would be very efficient. Although I didn’t have problems with cracking after a few years’ use, it’s also possible to cast in some chicken wire or similar to reinforce the casting to prevent that possibility. The mould for casting could be cobbled from tin cans for the inner and card or scrap wood for the outer, and the grate could also be cast in. Maybe a variation, for easier transport, would be to make a series of discs and rings that could be stacked to make the final stove – although the mix is quite light a full-sized monolithic structure would not fit in the back of the car that easily.
    It takes a while to dry out enough to light a strong fire in it.

    Not as low-tech as the stove you’re doing, but may work as a more-permanent cooking facility on the patio.

    I’ve also seen projects where a gas-bottle (standard 13kg Butane or similar) was converted to a stove. That takes welding, though, so is not an easy option for a quick woodburner.

  5. Steve C says:

    You’d get on well at the school where I used to mind the science lab. One of the annual ‘lessons to remember’ was when one of the upper classes were doing the lime cycle, which would be scheduled for the summer term. They got a protracted, outdoor lesson.

    First, the class would source a fair quantity of willow, and weave it into the traditional beehive kiln shape, around four feet or so high and maybe two across at the base. Next came the clay, starting lumpy but soon spread onto boards, hosed and (literally) trodden to a usably smooth texture. (Seriously messy, but the sort of fun which makes them little kids again!)

    Using an available paving stone as a base, the clay would then be daubed generously onto the willow frame and left for a few days to dry before being charged with its load of mixed charcoal and whatever limestone, marble or other form of calcium carbonate had turned up this year. (Sticks to start it at the bottom, of course.) Finally, sometime around midsummer, the class’s parents would be invited for the evening, with food and drink, and the kiln would be fired up early in the evening. (Drinks, I’m afraid, non-alcoholic, this being a school ‘do’.)

    I built a thermocouple thermometer for it one year: the (K-type) thermocouple I used had a maximum temp rating of 1,250°C, so I scaled the meter to suit. The basic kiln would reach up to the top 100° or so easily enough, but occasionally the chemistry teacher would squirt in a little oxygen from the lab’s cylinder to ‘encourage’ it, which pinned the meter on the top stop. Must have been 1400-odd degrees.

    With the kiln glowing away quite impressively, and everyone sitting around chatting and keeping an eye on the kids to make sure nothing awful happens, a good time is had by all. The parents end up knowing all about the lime cycle, too.

    When the kiln has cooled next day, there is a generous supply of quicklime available for dripping water on, etc, in the lab – yes, you can see something happen with a tiny piece of lime on a spatula, but it’s a lot more fun, and that much more memorable, watching a lump the size of your fist puffing up and steaming. The supply is generous enough to keep any parents who want some for the garden ‘limed’ for the rest of the year … we did slake it first, of course.

    Around the time I left, they were building a modest forge in the metalwork shop.

    Learning by doing, hands-on. Nothing like it! ;-)

  6. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.: BTW…are you preparing yourself for the dollaregom?

  7. j ferguson says:

    I apologize for what could be a suburban legend, but somewhere deep in my memory is an admonition not to use concrete (not cement – no such thing) block or ordinary brick in the construction of hot things – such as what you are discussing here. I suspect the problem might be what happens with moisture trapped in a variably porous material. Obviously, if there has been no such excitement at your place, this risk may be a bit overheated.

    This is what fire-brick is intended for, twice-burned clay pavers might work equally well, but not common brick.

    maybe the above is nonsense.

  8. j ferguson – I also expected the stuff to pop and shatter with red heat, having also heard about the problems with using cement-based mixes. The Vermiculite, however, is somewhat flexible and also gives a space for the water-vapour to go to. Putting the blowlamp on it was an experiment I thought I knew the answer to, and I would not have been that worried if it had disintegrated – the chimney lining would not have got that hot anyway and in that case also some disintegration would have been no problem. The fact that it caused no problem surprised me, which is why I tried the firecheek idea which worked well.

    Standard bricks tend to suffer with too much concentrated heat, since the various components aren’t well-mixed (costs more to mix longer) or long-fired (same cost problem). Bricks from the Great Wall of China were said to have been fired for a week at top temperature, so are fully-fused and wouldn’t suffer so badly. Would they miss 25 bricks from such a big wall?

  9. E.M.Smith says:


    Nope. Family heritage of making fire pits / forges. Interest in a ‘minimal forge’ started about age 5 or before with Dad talking about Smithing and how to make a “Field smithy” and what can be done to make / fit shoes to horses far from nowhere… Now turned more toward “how to ‘make do’ post quake” as I’ve lived through one. But also pondering what could be done to help seriously poor folks in far away places.

    That folks in, for example, Madagascar have essentially denuded 90% of their island for cooking wood is nearly criminal in the context of a ‘pile of bricks’ being able to cut fuel use dramatically. The the Rocket Stove (in all its forms) can free women globally from packing heavy loads of fuel wood daily a big deal. Getting smoke out of the eyes of women and children and out of their lungs improves health a great deal. It all makes it an area I find interesting. So much from so little.

    @J Ferguson & Simon:

    Per “brick shatter’: Well, I’ve heated a fair number of bricks in my life and not had them shatter.

    In theory you can have steam shatter. In practice the bricks heat so slowly that they just dry out. Maybe in the long run the surface will abrade more or scale off small chips, but I’ve not seen it.

    Look at the oven here:


    built out doors where the rain comes. Not looking all that worried about heat causing absorbed water / steam explosions or spalling

    I have a patio BBQ of very large size built back in the 50s or 60s from red clay brick and cinder block. I’ve used it to dispose of modestly large quantities of ‘waste wood’. Enough that it was nearly a small bonfire. Seriously overheated the thing. I’ve started fires with wet brick. I’ve put them out with water (cold water shock). We’re talking serious abuse. ( It is a lousy BBQ with a non-adjustable grate that’s a pain to clean and takes a whole bag of charcoal to make it work well as the grate is far above the bed… as in a couple of feet… so I was kind of hoping for a reason to take it apart). So far all it has done is have the mortar let loose on one of the backstop cinderblocks and have one of the red bricks in the ‘air intake’ come loose from the mortar.

    Again, in theory you can have a steam explosion (micro scale) break a brick. Some kinds of rocks have been known to do that when put, wet, into campfires with good coal beds. Using a half dozen briquettes inside a 24 brick pile is just not going to do it, though. I had enough fire out the top to roast a marshmallow or cook a hot dog and the exterior bricks were not even warm to the touch. When the fire was out, the interior was “warm not hot” meaning below steam point.

    I think the ‘rate of heat application’ is so low compared to the mass x specific heat of the bricks that any moisture has plenty of time to cook out without pressure buildup. Besides, if it does crack a brick, it will be doing so on in interior surface where I don’t care, and in a year or two when I discover that, I can buy a new brick for a few pennies and move on…

    @J. Ferguson:

    Yes, being pedantic they are “concrete blocks and bricks” not “cement” (that is the cementitious material that binds the sand and gravel in concrete). In reality, large numbers of “regular folks” call them ‘cement bricks’. Having gotten my face pounded many times for being “too precise” it is now a built in function to “speak regular like” and specifically not “do a Sheldon” with being overly precise… There is a continuum that ranges from “face pounders” to “PITA Picky” and I try to be in the middle somewhere these days…

    @Steve C:

    I love it! Exactly the kind of thing that I think schools ought to be. Sadly, I doubt we could even begin to do that in California. The number of parental release forms needed and the number of administrative rules broken would be a nightmare… Everyone would have to wear chemical suits and goggles most of the time anyway… probably require a nurse or ambulance on active standby… What ought to be a small group ‘learning by doing what villages did 100 years ago’ mutated into a ‘lawyers nightmare’…


    There are a great many designs using various slurry cement mixes often with vermiculite and ash or similar things in them. As I don’t have a pile of ash to work with, nor vermiculite (that may have left the local hardware store as it was declared to cause something bad… cancer or lung scaring or something when mice were forced to live in it /sarc;) and would be unlikely to have a bag available post-quake (my design goal being a post Great Quake build from rubble ingredients) I went with the brick pile method.

    Your mix of ingredients looks handy, so noted for “future use”. In the prior posting there was a link to someone who made a ‘Rocket Kitchen’ using bricks and clay (in an adobe mortar kind of way from what I could figure out) to make a large fixed installation. (Three burner holes, with two dedicated burners and one oven with warmer hole on top). That’s the kind of thing I’d do for a dedicated patio kitchen if I had a small ranch (which I don’t…)

    As the space I have is about 20 x 14 for EVERYTHING, including chairs, fridge, walkways, garden potting station, etc. etc. Anything I do tends to be “portable” so it can be ported out of the way of the next project and / or spring ‘potting on’ station use.

    (Part of why I covet the space consumed by my heritage lousy BBQ (currently serving to hold up a couple of large tubs o potted plants including the lima bean tub which provided the fuel for the First Fire…)).

    But yes, in many places in the Third World it would be fairly fast and easy to make a stove or oven out of local sourced masonry materials via various kinds of casting, molding, and applications to frames. There are many such designs “on the web”, and this one could easily be adapted to that kind of construction. (Though its easier to keep the two air channels on the same face when using molded materials so the 90 degree turn ‘feature’ is less valuable.)

    The classical Rocket Stove has a 90 degree elbow (of ceramic brick or metal) in a 5 gallon can with a vermiculite / cement / sand like mix poured in around it. See the links I’ve added under “addendum” for examples. I may explore that type of stove at some point, but right now I’m not seeing where I have much of a ‘value add’ there. (It’s pretty well explored). I think I can add something to the brick pile (as shown here) or maybe to the “little tin pot” portable pocket / camping Rocket Stoves. We’ll see.

    Well, time to make a pot of tea and take pictures of the stove… though maybe not in that order as taking apart a hot stove for pictures might not work so well ;-)

  10. j ferguson says:

    I am a confessed concrete pedant.

  11. Pingback: G70 Stove Pictures and Use Report | Musings from the Chiefio

  12. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.: It was a black joke as we call it here. And I was remembering that the GWrs. fanatics prohibited the old wooden stoves, so needed when there is deep cold and no power. We should be fully aware that the elite nuts, are precisely that, nuts or rather childish nuts totally possessed by the pathological fear of losing one million or a cent of the hundreds of thousand of millions they possess, so they are thinking all the time how to avoid such a terrible for them future, and manage destruction and wars to possess everything, the sooner the better. Let them know that the simple life, like you have, the joy of making this kind of simple stove worths more and give us more than their wildest dream ever dreamt.
    These simple things make the world better and make us realize, and hopefully to some of the nuts out there also, that there is a simpler and better life to be lived if we just stop fearing the future.

  13. E.M.Smith says:


    Ok. Sorry I didn’t ‘get it’… no tone of voice and no ‘wink wink’ to give me clue… ;-)

    Yes, the “Powers The Be” are prone to a peculiar lack of contact with reality. For many it does manifest as a kind of ‘disorder’.

    Also, yes, I get more joy out of something like this than I would from $10,000. (At $100,000 I’d have to say the money might win ;-)

    But my real joy comes from finding a ‘better way’ that helps folks live better and be happier. One of my (Buddhist inspired?) goals is finding ways to live with even less. The less baggage you need, the more free you are. I still go ahead and use / live with, lots of stuff; but ever more of it is completely optional and not all that important. That’s a very warm feeling….

    So we have power failures some times. (Not nearly as much as when we had Democrat Governor Gray “out” Davis… but now with Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown ‘fixing’ our electric system, maybe they will come back …) Where other folks and in other places are put in a panic by a power outage, I hardly even notice them any more. If it is over a couple of minutes, I start the generator and / or light some lamps… We have LED flashlights in each room, so if the lights go out, folks just flip one on. (One lives in my pocket at all times, so it is about as exciting as clicking a pen…)

    Electricity supply is essentially unimportant to me any more. Nice to have, but if it ‘goes away’, I can make my own. If the generator runs out of fuel, I can get the services from other devices.

    Just one example. But I think you get the point. After the Loma Prieta quake we had a ‘wine and cheese’ party at my house. Watching the news about the whole area being ‘knocked out’ and power being out in wide areas, with TV broadcasters off the air. All on our satellite TV (that was new and novel then) from out of the area TV stations. Local TV, electricity, stores, all of it just not important. We had our own bypass… But even if it were dark and no TV, I could set up a stove and we’d have hot food for dinner and a shelter. ( Family sized tent in a ‘quake box’ outside the house…)

    I think that’s a level of “comfort” folks with high position can never have. Always dependent on money, and other people, and support systems, and power and… Great until something goes “bump in the night”. I’ve known some of those “Poor Dears” who could not cook their own dinner even WITH a working stove… The near panic in New York City post storm when the restaurants were closed was an example.

    ( Yes, there are a few who are broadly experienced and can ‘do things’… I was quite pleased to see that Her Majesty The Queen of England knows how to hoist a chicken by the neck and dispatch it. I doubt that Charles can… ) Ah well, not my problem.

    FWIW, one of the best bits of wisdom I ever soaked up was a book on wilderness survival. It basically said “If you are stuck in the wild, just use appropriate technology. Live like a stone age person by learning their methods.” The guy teaches (taught?) a class at BYU and the ‘final exam’ was students dropped in the middle of the desert barefoot. They had to make shoes (from plant leaves) and find food and water. (To protect scarce cactus and all, if the student identified ‘where’ and had made the tools for ‘how’, they were given water / food of the size they would have gotten). Still, just by reading that book, I realized that the entire world is a resource. You never have a ‘lack of resources’. So no longer needed my ‘preparedness packs’ with me to be ‘prepared’. So yeah, it’s a lot of work to make a camp from scratch with nothing; but quite possible and not that hard once you have your mind right.

    So I have a pretty good idea how to make cordage from plants. How to make a lean too from brush. How to get a fire going without much of anything. How to make a bed out of forest litter and how to stay warm stuffing leaves into pants and shirts. How to navigate by looking at the sky. Etc. etc.

    Don’t know for certain that I could “survive” in exotics like a tropical jungle or the arctic, but pretty sure I’m “up to it” in the temperate zones. Certain I can do it in any suburban or urban areas in a disaster. That brings a kind of peace and calm that many folks just do not have.

    So, long way around the mountain, but to your joke:

    No, not prepping for any particular “dark joke” scenario. But always prepared and never particularly worried. Do feel a bit sorry for the folks who are slaves to their power and possessions and unable to just live… I go out of my way to ‘just live’ as much as possible and spend as little time “indentured” to people or stuff as is possible. My complete lack of caring about “social status” and “power” often cause perplexity for some folks. Frankly, were I introduced to Her Majesty The Queen, I’d mostly just be bored… though it would be very interesting to talk to her about experiences during W.W.II and perspectives on the world… but strangers don’t get to do that… so what’s the point of the ‘meet and greet’?… Which leaves me thinking how much of her life is spent in those pointless moments.

    Well, enough of that digression… back at The Stove:

    It’s a good example of ‘what matters’ to me. I now know how to make one. That is with me forever now. So anywhere in the world, any time an ‘aw shit’ happens, all I need do is look around for some brickwork that’s down, or even just bricks used in lawn edging, and presto, you get a stove. Then the principles of that stove could even be used with other materials, if bricks are not around. So even just stones from a river wash could be used to make something with similar principles, and better fuel use, compared to the typical ‘three stone’ fire ring. What’s that worth? A lot more than spending 40 hours doing useless things for other people to get pretty pieces of paper and empty promises…

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  15. Steve C says:

    Apropos your reference to the rocket stove, I note that it recently got a mention on Keelynet as well –
    – in a “DIY Rocket Stove Mass Heater” for warming your home “with 80% to 90% less wood”. – “This could be the cleanest and most sustainable way to heat a conventional home. Some people have reported that they heat their home with nothing more than the dead branches that fall off the trees in their yard. And they burn so clean, that a lot of sneaky people are using them illegally, in cities, without detection.” (That I like!)

    Morphic resonance, obviously. The Keelynet article has a link back to the original, which seems to show that this idea has been getting attention from the permaculturists.

    Glad you liked the kiln. (We all did, too!) Sadly, “‘Elf’n’Safety” is killing a lot of school / kid stuff here too, but I wouldn’t want to depress everyone with their myriad nonsenses. Come the revolution …

  16. E.M.Smith says:


    I noted the ‘mass heaters’ while doing stove stuff. It is on my “look at someday” list now. As I’m not going to be using the electric room heat in the bedroom, I’ve got this idea of an exterior ‘rocket heater’ with a water loop pumped though thin tubing in the bedroom window… So a small fire “for a while” makes a large pile of hot bricks. Then through the night a tiny pump moves that heat into the bedroom – fire long gone…

    Needs a lot more design time and don’t know I’ll ever actually do it. But as I need about 15 kW-hrs total heat, probably not a very big stove needed… nor much of a brick pile. If I put a ‘grill’ on it and “make dinner”, that makes it legal. Then “shut it down” and hook up the heat harvester… so at night there is no fire. Still legal…

    The Powers That Be think that folks won’t just ‘adapt’. They will make all sorts of rules to try to prevent it. Cold folks will find ways anyway. Once ‘found fuel’ and wood is cheaper than nuclear / coal / etc. electric heat, folks will find a way and shift. For me, it is a ‘race condition’ between two ideas. The one more likely to win is just adding a hot water loop from the domestic water heater to the bedroom. One standard baseboard radiator. Two bits of tubing under the floor. A valve and a pump. Switch / timer. Then I’m heating on natural gas for cheap, but without running the whole house furnace. Runs the water heater more (in the dead of night when it isn’t being used anyway) but it is one of the most heat efficient appliances in the place.

    The simple fact is that in the “3rd World” folks use wood for fuel as it is the most economical choice. Make electricity uneconomical in the “1st World”, and folks will move to the most economical. Make gas expensive too, and heating oil, and… You end up at wood again. For many places ‘in the hills’ and ‘in the country’, they have always used wood and still do. It will just spread out from there. (My sister lives in a suburb of Sacramento that was ‘country’ 30 years back. They have wood heat from a fireplace insert… so we’re not talking distant country. We’re talking ‘she commuted 15 miles to her job at the State Capitol’ country…)

    At present the “fireplace police” us IR gear to look at brick chimneys. I’m certain I can disguise a Rocket Mass Heater exhaust to look like a hot water / furnace exhaust and I know I can cool it enough with a cool air dilute via 12 Vdc box fan to make it not show up. Welcome to stealth technology…

    But the water heater doesn’t need me to do anything and provides constant heat all night long… so it’s most likely what I’ll do. At least as long as natural gas stays so cheap.

  17. Steve C says:

    Ha, sounds like your “fireplace police” are the new use to justify keeping all those IR kits and helicopters they originally got for locating idiots trying to grow a certain popular weed in their attics ;-) – I think that’s still their main use in the UK. Happily, our lot aren’t quite far enough down the line for chimneys yet, or at least I haven’t heard anything. But I quite agree re people finding ways around any half-baked law that comes in, and from what I hear California and the UK are both becoming “challenging” places in that respect. Given the progressive dumbing down of education, the challenge will get harder as time goes by, I fear.

    I got the impression from the stuff on the Rocket Mass heater that the outlet waste gas must be pretty cool (relatively) anyhow, as their design seemed to involve (in effect) sitting on the chimney, so it might not need much dilution. A neat design I’d not seen before – all the wood burners I’ve met have been rather bigger cast-iron jobs.

    FWIW, a tidbit of information for the file for when you get round to making up a “proper” heat storage system (Rocket Mass or other). Long ago, I read that one of the best heat storage materials to use is sodium sulphate, Glauber salt. Apparently, volume for volume, it’ll store more heat than any other common material, shouldn’t come too expensive, and doesn’t tend to degrade. (If your chemical supply is going the same way as ours, as it seems to be, the recipe is simple and obvious. BUT be warned, you need proper equipment and knowhow to do it. Omit either and you will regret it. “If in doubt, don’t”, as ever.)

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